Chess, King of Sports

So lucky to have unconsciously put so much energy into such a sport. Without a doubt, it has marked me forever.

1. The start

2. Competition

3. Experience

4. Maturity

5. Pandemic and chess online

1. THE START

My way through this game represents very accurately its virtues. I can’t remember the moment when I was taught to move the pieces, but I can remember how upset I got when I was eight, in my first games against my dad. The defeats did not stop, and my solution was to go to do something else, where I could win or what I could really understand. ?

After a couple of years we both decided to spend the time between the irrigation of the olive trees in getting back on chess, and using it as a pastime. Every approximately 2 hours we had to water them again, so there was no point in going back home.

That was, in fact, the perfect setting to learn. No distractions. He beated me the first days, like before, but raging was pointless. Therefore, I watched in a natural way my father’s strategies, and I tried to guess why did mine not work, still I finally “understood”.

My father dug his own grave. I could not leave him in peace, as I wanted to play at home too, and I could manage to win some games. He decided to borrow his brothers a little, dusty book, that I won’t ever forgot: la Cartilla de Ajedrez. I get hooked very soon and I couldn’t help rereading it.

This reminds me of science (with art and sport, terms associated with chess). In science, the more you know about a topic, the more aware you are that you in fact have no clue about it. In this case, after my first long-awaited victories, I really thought that I finished the game, exactly like in those videogames. How naive.

I was only 10. I applied what I learned in the book, and I wrote my victories in a piece of paper. I got very angry, when one day my father beat me again. It couldn’t be compared with any of my anger with videogames. Today I wonder: with whom I got angry?

Finally, the time to compete has come. It’s a feeling that still today my nervous system interprets as new each time I play a tournament.

2. COMPETITION

During the village festivities, in September 2009, the tent where many events were taking place during that week was one day given a tint of black and white. When we found it, my family decided to accompany me to play it.

It is a very vague memory, but it certainly ignited a flame that would never go out. I can only remember the image of that white tent and a fifth place, which encouraged me to repeat.

Three months later another championship was held in my father’s hometown: Villafranca de los Caballeros, organized by my subsequent first chess club, Nuestro Ajedrez en Europa. It was a project dedicated to extract the talent of young people coming from the neighboring villages. In the tournament I remember a scene: me running to claim to the arbiter that my rival had stalemated me, an anecdote that I remember fondly. I managed to be one of the winners, and since then, I was encouraged to join the school along with one of my lifelong friends.

Chess was already my main focus. It occupied most of my free time. So competing was already an important part of the game. Competition is very complex, and I learned to manage it with experience, there is no other way. Case in point was the next competition, and the last one I remember solidly from my early days.

It was the first provincial championship at school age that I played, in a small town in Ciudad Real called Carrión de Calatrava. I remember three images: the astonishing one of the playing room; the one of the kiosk where we went between rounds to buy sweets, and the one of a rook endgame with two pawns advantage that I was not able to win, and so I was not in the top three to qualify for the regional phase.

This was a sign that there was an eternal road ahead, but because of its beginning, I knew it was going to give me a lot of bumps, but even more joys.

3. EXPERIENCE

Many tournaments followed one after the other, and I was generally achieving satisfactory results. From each tournament I learned a little bit, and I soaked up chess day after day. Perseverance is very important, especially in chess.

At the age of 14, one of the achievements that I carry in my heart came. A championship of Castilla-La Mancha, in which after many turns of events, I managed to win. I was becoming more and more aware that I could reach a very good level, and that this sport had something special that I would never be able to leave aside.

I grew up, good tournaments continued with important victories and many more defeats and bad results, from which I also recovered. My play matured this way.

Then it was time to move to study. And if there was one thing I knew for sure, it was that chess would always have a place in my time. In Valencia I started an adventure with a new club, Alaquàs, where I began to play in the league and we managed to reach the highest category in the community.

Moving to another city meant an unprecedented personal growth. How did chess evolve because of this?

4. MATURITY

In my first year i was amazed by all the chess activity available in the Valencian Community. I played sereval tournaments with good results, but the following year I took one of the decisive steps.

Thanks to a friend’s invitation, I learned that many Valencian schools were already including chess as a school activity. In Castilla-la Mancha it was still in its infancy. What is it all about?

Children can learn chess, instructed by monitors, during school hours. It is not evaluated, it could be called a workshop. I became one of those monitors for the following year, in two schools near my university.

On the other hand, I took on the great challenge of defending the first board in the top category of Valencian chess, which we reached after a hard-fought first league. The conclusion: I only had a little work to do to finally fix many of the deficiencies in my game, among them, a good opening preparation.

Thus I opened two fronts that made my game more stable and mature: on the teaching side, I consolidated my knowledge and developed this communicative skill; and on the competitive side, I started to see the flaws in my game, interpret them, and work on them (discipline).

5. PANDEMIC AND ONLINE CHESS

The third league I played in was in the first division, we didn’t manage to keep the category. But that doesn’t mean that the games were easy. After collecting 6.5 points out of 8, we were fighting to move up the division again. But a virus killed the season in which I probably played the best chess.

The quarantines showed my attitude towards chess more clearly: if there are no face-to-face tournaments to play, I lose my motivation. I started with a victory in a very special tournament, probably the one with the most merit, the Carvicio Cup, a championship to which all the chess players from Castilla-La Mancha were invited.

But after a couple of months, chess took a back seat. And although I didn’t think it would, it shows; in September 2020 I played the tournament in which I dropped the most ELO. One of the many lessons that this game is capable of giving you.

However, I opened another new door on the teaching side, online classes. An activity that allowed me to much more effectively transmit my knowledge to other people. There are a lot of resources for teaching online: Lichess tools, Chessbase… And starting these classes has given me a lot of resources for teaching.

Then I have at the moment , without counting the occasional school group, 9-10 students of different ages, and every class we both put ourselves to the test. The approach is a kind of coaching, learning to think in a practical and even improvised way, focused on the real game.

In this way, chess has become one of the ways to manifest my skills of many kinds. Competitively there are spurts, as other responsibilities and goals come and go, but lessons and constant interest mean that it always occupies part of my time. I couldn’t be prouder to have known this sport, its environment and the people it has enabled me to meet, and if anything is clear, it is that although it may come and go, it will never disappear from my life.

6. UPDATE 2023

2022 closed with Benidorm, a very strong open to which he was invited as runner-up in the Valencian Community blitz. The end was tragic:

Three painful defeats that made me aware of my issues in front of the board. Problems to which in 2023 I have sought to find a solution: by starting to train.

After I left for England, I put teaching aside indefinitely to concentrate on work. I only took it up again a bit towards the end, to help out at the Coventry Chess Academy. But what I really needed was to get back to competing. And so I discovered the local club in Kenilworth, my local English village, which has a very decent standard.

First of all, let’s look at my progress in terms of training:

· I started a coaching with a private teacher. After passing him annotated games of my own, we had ten lessons on different topics. They were quite helpful, not only for the content, but also for learning how the masters really approach the training.
However, I don’t think it suited me at the time. It is a format that requires concentration and energy, and with a new country and new responsibilities, I could not afford it.

· Thus, I came to ChessExcelsior, the online academy run by GM Ivan Salgado, which suits my needs best right now as it allows me to go at my own pace. Recorded classes, exercise correction and sports psychology sessions are its attraction.

Knowing these two formats, the first more specialised and the second more broad, I can choose how to train. Several ways, but only one goal, to become a Fide Master.

And then there are the tournaments:

· The local leagues (Coventry and Leamington) pit clubs from local towns against each other, Mondays or Tuesdays at 19:30, for five months, at a pace of 80’+10”. They are only good for English ELO, which is not my main concern, but they allow you to play very often.

Our team after being crowned champions of the Leamington League.
As you can see, in England they pose differently in the photos.

· The 4NCL (Four Nations Chess League), the national league. Ten games over five weekends, 100′ with time control, in which I represent Warwickshire County.

· Congresses, openes not very strong but perfect to compete some weekends out of the leagues.

· Friendly games on Thursdays in a local pub (Ale Rooms).

2024 will see a huge investment of time, money and holidays to fight for my top level. I hope to come back with good news…

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